Woodcraft by Bernard Sterling Mason ~ a GREAT Traditional Camping Book!

Every person interested in traditional camping and woodcraft should read “Woodcraft” by Bernard S. Mason.  It ranks as one of my favorite camping books published during the golden age of camping.

Bernard S. Mason, PhD. was a Professor in the Department of Sociology at Ohio State University when he first came to prominence in 1928 by being awarded the Redbook Prize for his book “Camping and Education: Camp Problems from the Campers’ Viewpoint“(1930).  In addition to being a recognized leader in the organized camping and recreation movement, Mason was an authority on woodcraft, woodlore, camping, camp crafts and interestingly, trick roping, boomerang throwing and Indian dancing.  He developed the camping program for Camp Fairwood at Torch Lake, MI (closed 1971) before becoming the co-owner/Director of Camp Kooch-i-Ching at International Falls, MN in 1948 (still going strong).  Mason also taught outdoor skills and leadership and camp crafts at Ernest Thompson Seton’s “College of Indian Wisdom” in Santa Fe, NM in addition to serving as Editor of “Camping” magazine.

Woodcraft (A. S. Barnes & Company, New York, NY, 1939) was Mason’s greatest contribution to camping literature.  At a whopping 569 pages, Woodcraft categorizes the subject matter into three areas: Campcraft, Woodcraft and Crafts of the Woods.

Part 1 – Campcraft deals with the ethics, skills and techniques of camping ie: shelter, beds and duffel, which covers bedding, mattresses, packs and packing and one’s personal kit, firecraft, which discusses all manner of campfires from cooking and baking fires to ceremony council fires, Campfire Gadgets, which details the various cook fire “kitchens” (or designs), utensils and tools and lighting, and Axemanship – something that Mason covers in exhaustive and better detal than any other camping “how-to” book I’ve read.  Just his chapter on axemanship is worth buying the book for.

Part 2 – Woodcraft details the how-to of making useful items for the camp and cabin – caches, cupboards and coolers and meat smokers, bark utensils and miscellany, rope and cordage, shaving horses and carving, knife making and knife use (including the important crooked knife) and knickknacks such as salt and pepper shakers, noggins, forks and spoons, ladles, bowls, dishes and plates, brooms, washboards, candle holders sun goggles, camp furniture and council rings.

Part 3 – Crafts of the Woods is a mixed bag for me.  Some of the topics are wonderful and useful – buckskin making and buckskin crafting (of moccasins and apparel) and tin can craft, and some are more appropriate for camp ceremonies and recreation programs.

Woodcraft is chock full of photographs and illustrations by Mason’s longtime collaborator, Fredrick H. Kock, making the fine details of woodcraft “how-to” easy to understand.  You truly can replicate what you read in this book with complete success.

 

Currently out of print, later editions were published in 1974 and 1985 under the title of “Woodcraft and Camping” by Dover Publications.  A condensed, paperback edition published in 2001 by Derrydale Press is still in print.  Titled the “Boy’s Book of Camping and Wood Crafts“, it contains about half of the content of the original.

Mason also wrote “The Junior Book of Woodcraft and Camping“, published by The Ronald Press Company in 1943.  This was a large format book with lots of photos and illustrations. At only 120 pages, Mason pared down the content of the original to the absolute minimum of what one would need to know to go camping for the first time.  Though quite different than Woodcraft it’s still a great book.

 

 

Check out Woodcraft.  I know you’ll like it!

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